In tough economic times, we must not forget the 'fair go' for all, says UWS human rights expert

Date: 04/03/2009

While the global financial crisis and domestic economic woes might be foremost in our minds, former Australian Human Rights Commissioner and Director of Equity and Diversity at the University of Western Sydney, Dr Sev Ozdowski, says now more than ever we also need to keep our sights on the broader social agenda and promote respect, participation and social inclusion in our communities.

Dr Ozdowski warns that community tensions can often arise in times of economic hardship, with a widening gap between the haves and have nots. He says it can threaten our social fabric and cohesion if we don't have the right strategies and cultural structures in place to deal with them.

Dr Ozdowski will be speaking tonight at the launch of the UWS Year of Respect and Inclusion at the UWS Parramatta campus - an event that also includes a public lecture by Federal Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland, who will discuss the Australian human rights protection system and human rights education in Australia, as part of the University's 'Open Forum' series.

"Despite the focus currently on our economic situation and safeguarding the country from a possible recession, we also need to ensure that we don't lose our way when it comes to social policies, and working toward the greater ideals of equity, respect, access and a 'fair go' for all," says Dr Ozdowski.

"Australia as a nation is at its best when we celebrate our differences and our common humanity, which is why the University is launching its 2009 Year of Respect and Inclusion - to show real leadership on this issue, and set about cultivating the kind of community in which we all want to live, work and study."

Dr Ozdowski says the UWS Year of Respect and Inclusion initiative is moving beyond mere tolerance as a driving ethos; rather it's about celebrating and harnessing Australia's diversity and its great cultural wealth.

"As one of Australia's most culturally and socially diverse universities, UWS is well placed to be a leader on this issue. The University reflects the larger Australian community, with students and staff of different ages, races, ethnicity, gender sexuality, religion, political beliefs, disabilities and life experiences.

"Together we're working hard to ensure that UWS is a place where gender and disability are not a disadvantage, where one's faith or cultural background is accepted, where same-sex partners are comfortable displaying their affections and discrimination and bullying are simply not tolerated," says Dr Ozdowski.

"A significant proportion of UWS students from Greater Western Sydney are also 'first in the family' students who can use tertiary education as a stepping stone to a prosperous future.

"We want UWS to be a 'fair-go' university that is open to all. We want them to know they will feel at home here regardless of their background or identity.

"This diversity is one of the great strengths of UWS, and the Year of Respect and Inclusion is about focussing on the advantages and the enrichment this diversity brings."

Further activities planned during the UWS Year of Respect and Inclusion include:
*Indigenous Short Film Festival (29th May Bankstown)
*Multifaith event
*Short Film Competition
More activities are expected be announced throughout 2009.

WHAT: Launch of the 2009 UWS Year of Respect and Inclusion and 2009 Open Forum Series
WHEN: 5:30pm for a 6.00pm start on Wednesday 4 March, 2009
WHERE: Ian and Nancy Turbott Auditorium, Building EE, Room G36, UWS Parramatta Campus, Corner Victoria Road and James Ruse Drive



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